And so here we are. Four weeks, 14 posts later. It never ceases to amaze me what we here at Sociology Lens have done here: we have created a space for graduate students to offer advice to other students. No where else is there a space specific for students to seek out advice and community, especially Sociology discipline-specific, from other students. I am ecstatic that this is now a resource that students will be able to come to for years.
Throughout this month, our editors discussed many topics from applying to PhD programs (by Roger Tyers) to the job search (by Tara Stamm), from having children (by Tara Stamm) to personal relationships (by Scarlett Brown), from blogging (by Roger Tyers) to publishing (by Megan Nanney), among many others. The wide breadth of topics shows just how much there is for graduate students to talk about, think about, and deal with on a daily basis. In fact, in just 2 days, George Byrnes piece “5 Things I Wish I had Known Before Starting my PhD Program” had nearly 6,000 hits! Even though the themed month has come to an end, I hope that we can keep these dialogues open either through our comment function, Twitter, or with future posts.
While there is always more to be said as our contexts and social circumstances, here I want to offer additional resources that have been provided to me over the years that people should feel free to use, share and distribute, and contribute to. May we continue to share our experiences, offer support and advice, and more importantly look out for not only the future of the discipline itself, but also those people within the discipline.
Sociology Specific Blogs (by Faculty)
For that Darned Thesis/ Dissertation
General Graduate Student Support
Good writing is crucial to sociology. For sociology to thrive as a discipline we sociologists have to be able to communicate our research effectively to a range of audiences. There are many great writing guides out there (Write for Research is especially good: https://medium.com/@write4research). This list of tips reflects my experience of writing a sociology PhD. It’s by no means an exhaustive or authoritative list and some readers may disagree with some of its items: nevertheless it reflects three years focussing on trying to improve my own writing. As student advice month draws to a close, I think this list therefore may be useful to some student sociologists. (more…)
A couple of weeks ago, in my Social Issues in Qualitative Methodology course, I was assigned to give a presentation on the “technologies of interviewing.” At first, I was told by older cohort members that I was lucky because I had the easiest topic: “Just do the history of the recorder.” As I googled the topic, thinking that it would then be some cool history and development I found that my predecessors had just done a timeline of photos of how the recorder has changed over time. How boring! Who would want to sit through a 20 minute lecture, slide after slide, talking about the recorder, especially when we’re supposed to be talking about the social issues involved in qualitative methods?
My advice to you, graduate students, today is to avoid this typical pitfall in your methods classes (as both student and instructor): revamp your lessons so they can be of some actual use! Below I offer an example of how I revamped this “simple and easy topic” to something that students can actually use and learn from.
Graduate Student Advice Month
Nobody really knows what is like to do a PhD until they do one. I am half way through mine and I still only half know what it is like to do one very specific PhD: my own. Everyone’s experience is unique to their own research topic, their own field site and their own personality, but many of the challenges, pressures and anxieties we encounter are more similar than we realise. We all seem to spend most of our time oscillating between contradictory emotions (hope and despair, enthusiasm and exhaustion, excitement and frustration), hoping that eventually all of this turmoil might (miraculously) become something worthy of calling a thesis.
I wouldn’t really call the following five things ‘advice’, and they are by no means a description of how I have been approaching my own research so far. At best, they are a few things that I now know I need to keep reminding myself of, and that other researchers might be able to identify with. (more…)
There was a shooting on my campus. A lone gunman entered the first floor of the library last week in the middle of the night and started randomly shooting. Three students were injured and hundreds more hid in the stacks while campus police ended the attack by killing the shooter. As a sociologist, I know too well how our culture has a way of pushing people to the point of breaking, (more…)
In a previous post (which can be found here), I mentioned the ‘impostor phenomenon’ and how I and many people I know who work in academia have experienced it in some form or another during their career. The ‘imposter syndrome’ (identified by Clance & Imes, 1978, pp. 1-2), the feeling that leads the self-declared impostors to believe that they are not intelligent and that anyone who thinks otherwise has simply been fooled, is usually accompanied by a fear that one day some significant person (a colleague, boss, parent, or partner) will catch them out and realize that they are a fraud. It is incredibly common among academics and is even more common among those who are not in the ‘elite’ category normally associated with academia, i.e. white, wealthy men. Thus, impostor phenomenon is particularly prevalent among women, ethnic minorities and/or any under represented populations (see e.g. Peteet, Brown, Lige & Lanaway, 2014).
As impostor phenomenon has entered mainstream discourses surrounding academic success (and failure), numerous books and articles (such as Clance, 1985, this Forbes article, or this advice for new students at MIT) attempt to offer ways to understand and deal with this newly acquired insecurity; the fear of failing because you feel like an impostor. Oftentimes, it is said that feeling like an impostor is something that we need to overcome, and that ‘faking it’ is an important part of doing so (for example, Amy Cuddy’s TED talk, 2012). This is almost certainly the case for people in academia who are undermining themselves unjustly, particularly women and first generation graduate students who tend to face significant internal barriers to success (see e.g. Gardner, 2013). I would argue, though, that in some instances (particularly in my own experience) feeling like an impostor can be a legitimate emotion, because that is exactly what we are.
Nobody really talks about how or why his or her research failed, or what you are supposed to do when you can see that the fieldwork you are in the middle of might be doomed. Those who decide to leave their research uncompleted rarely write up their experiences, and so the lessons that can be learnt about what not to do during your research, and how to avoid a similar outcome, are forever lost in the private notebooks of the ‘failed’ researcher (Wolcott, 2005, p. 214). I am sure I can’t be the first person to be six months into their fieldwork and be seriously doubting the entire process and already wondering if it is salvageable. So I have decided to write a post about why I think my research is going wrong. (more…)
When I picked my friend’s nine year old daughter up from school last week the first thing she said to me was, “We had to do something really weird in class today. The teacher paired all the girls with a boy and we had to be a married couple.” It turns out the teacher was having her students work on writing dialogue and since it was right before Valentine’s Day she thought it would be cute for them to write dialogue about love and marriage.
“Not all girls want to marry a boy. It was so lame,” my friend’s daughter told me. ‘Lame’ was not really the word that came to my mind; I was more thinking about heteronormativity and how it is reproduced through our social institutions.